How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Productivity Tool

productivity Sep 23, 2021
How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Productivity Tool

Do you remember when no one carried a cell phone with them because...they weren't even invented yet?

If you do, please send me a message and let me know. 😁

According to Wikipedia, the first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing 4.4 pounds!

Now, 48 years later, cell phones are as ordinary as, well, the people who use them.

Unfortunately, like all technology, this incredible device can be both a blessing and a curse. That's right; it can - and often is, both a blessing and a curse.

Here are several ideas on how you can ensure your phone is a blessing and something that serves you rather than a curse. Note: I am an iPhone fan and an iOS 15 user, and I apologize in advance if anything I write about in this post does not apply to your device.

Declutter your home screen

How many apps or widgets are cluttering up your home screen?

I've tried everything from a blank screen (just the dock with wallpaper showing) to a screen full of apps, apps in folders, widgets only, and widgets plus apps.

Recently, I found an article on Medium by Coach Tony that suggests you only have three widgets on your home screen: calendar (I use Fantastical 3), Screen Time, and the weather (I use the default one on the iPhone). I decided to try this out, and I must say I like this approach. It's powerful seeing how much I'm using my device as soon as I unlock it because the Screen Time widget is front and center!

Coach Tony also suggests you have an all-black screen as your wallpaper. He points out that not only does it save battery, but it is also a signal to you that your smartphone is a tool and not a toy. I'm testing the all-black wallpaper for both my lock screen and home screen.

Controlling all those notifications

I'm not a zero-notifications productivity expert, but instead, I believe and teach you to be intentional about which notifications you have enabled.

What does that mean?

For each app, ask yourself this question: will this notification serve me or distract me?

If your answer is distract, disable it. If it serves you, leave it enabled. Hint: Most of your notifications should be disabled as most of them probably distract you.

And thanks to Apple releasing iOS 15, you have some new and potent options.

Focus: Match your devices to your mindset

According to Apple, Focus helps you stay in the moment when you need to concentrate or step away. Choose from a list of Focus options or create your own to allow only the notifications you want.

I love this feature because while Do Not Disturb is fantastic, it's an all-or-nothing option. In other words, when enabled, you can't receive any notifications. However, Focus changes this.

As an example, I have created a Focus called Reading. When I have this enabled, no one can text me, and only my calendar app (Fantastical) can send me a notification.

Another Focus I have created is Vitamin D (when I'm out getting my fill of sunshine). Here, my wife and my father can text me, and my calendar can send me a notification. No one else gets through.

This feature is a game-changer, and true to Apple's style, it's straightforward to set up. If you are on iOS 15, go to Settings > Focus. If you're not, get it! (Settings > General >Software Update)

Notification summary

The other iOS 15 feature I love is called Notification summary. Apple describes it as, Quickly catch up with a valuable collection of your notifications delivered daily, based on your set schedule. The summary is intelligently ordered by priority, with the most relevant notifications at the top.

I have three summary times set up (6:16 am - shortly after I wake up; 12:01 pm - lunchtime; and 4:55 pm - dinner time). Around 80% of the apps for which I do have notifications enabled are selected under Notification summary. Calendar, to-dos, delivery, weather, phone, maps, and credit/debit card apps are all set for immediate delivery (but only get through when Focus is not enabled), but the other apps only show during the times I set up. I love this feature.

One final and simple tip

Coach Tony also recommends you disable the Raise to Wake feature. This is so simple but extremely powerful.


When it is enabled, every time you grab your phone to move it (even to put it in your pocket, purse, etc.), the screen lights up, and you see all of your notifications. True, even though you have set up Notification summary, any notification for immediate delivery will display.

I disabled this feature, and it has caused me to increase my focus.

It IS possible to use your smartphone and be productive. But you have to do it intentionally.

I'd love to know which of the tips I wrote about you either do already or will implement as a result of reading this article. Let me know.

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